BlackBerry Pushes Mobile Security Credentials And Signs US Government Contracts

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BlackBerry says businesses need better mobile security and agrees software deals with US government and coastguard

BlackBerry is continuing its push into mobile security with new research claiming companies aren’t taking appropriate measures despite fearing attacks and by announcing several deals with US government organisations.

The company is transitioning away from the handset businesses that made it a household name to services and software, with securing mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices a particular area of focus.

Its latest research claims 86 percent of executives worry about potential hacks and 73 percent of organisations have security measures in place – yet just three percent say they have the “highest” level of security possible.

Mobile security

BlackBerry PassportHalf believe bring your own device (BYOD) is a risk and 45 percent have no containerisation policy (i.e. separating corporate and personal apps and data). Naturally, BlackBerry’s products claim to do both things effectively.

To further push home the point, BlackBerry has provided specific figures for individual industries, all of which are regulated. It says four out of ten companies have a mobile device management (MDM) strategy in place but 44 percent of financial firms feel their security is not strong enough, compared to 52 percent in government, 37 percent in healthcare and 54 percent in the legal industry.

The biggest obstacle it seems is the belief that mobile security measures make employees less productive. This is a view shared by 44 percent of respondents, while 78 percent of the financial and healthcare sectors see mobile security controls as an obstruction, as do 85 percent of government respondents and 94 percent of those in the legal industry.

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Persistent threat

“The frequency and severity of malicious attacks have made mobile security the centre of attention for CEOs and boards of directors, but doing enough to mitigate risk is still a persistent problem that needs to be solved,” said David Kleidermacher, BlackBerry Chief Security Officer.

“This is especially true as the constant adoption of new technologies regularly brings the potential for new vulnerabilities, which can offset the benefits.

“We have also heard many of our customers say that security policies can be perceived as a hindrance. However, senior executives in every function, and even in the boardroom, need to forcefully communicate that effective mobile security enhances productivity instead of obstructing it.”

Government wins

BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) and BlackBerry 10.3.2 have received Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIG) from the US Department of Defense (DoD), detailing how US government departments can configure devices for maximum security.

The company’s AtHoc crisis communications software has also been selected to power the US Senate’s crisis communications alert service and to extend the US Coastguard’s alert system for the US Capitol Region, providing notifications for more than 3,800 people.

BlackBerry Classic“It’s critical for the nation’s political epicenter to be prepared with a unified communications system to swiftly and securely communicate in the event of an emergency,” added John Chen, BlackBerry CEO.

“As the leading provider of crisis communication software to the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, AtHoc has demonstrated the ability to enable highly secure information-exchange for the world’s most demanding organizations. The U.S. Senate is joining more than three million US federal government personnel today in using BlackBerry’s AtHoc software for their crisis communications capability.”

Handset withdrawal

BlackBerry was once the market leader in smartphones but its market share has shrunk to less than one percent in recent times.

While Apple, Samsung and others were able to erode BlackBerry’s advantage in security and compliance, the perpetually-delayed launch of BB10 meant the Canadian manufacturer was unable to offer devices that had the features end users desired.

Chen has repeatedly cast doubt on the future of its handset business and has reportedly given it until the end of the year to be profitable. It will no longer make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone but it has stressed this does not mean it will no longer make QWERTY-based smartphones and will continue to update BlackBerry 10.

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